USDA reopens application period for retailers interested in ethanol
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has opened a new, 30-day application period that started Dec. 21 to provide retailers one more opportunity to apply for grant money still available under its Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program.
In October, USDA announced several recipients of the up to $100 million in matching grants to increase ethanol and biodiesel sales. ACE Senior Vice President and Market Development Director Ron Lamberty hopes this “re-opening” provides a second chance for retailers who got started during the original 90-day timeframe, but couldn’t complete their grant applications before that window closed.
“We got feedback on the application process from marketers we worked with saying it took too long to gather the information they needed and get the ‘registrations’ they had to complete before they could even apply,” Lamberty said in a news release from American Coalition for Ethanol. “Those things are required to do business with the government, and most retailers weren’t expecting that.”
“Although 30 days seems like an impossibly short window, it can be an opportunity for station owners who started the process this summer to finish their applications,” Lamberty said, adding that “realistically, someone just jumping in right now is going to have a challenge rounding up the necessary permissions and information in that timeframe.”
Knowing the 24/7 lives of c-store owners and operators and understanding they may not have time to sit in on a webinar or workshop, in May ACE launched a series of short, fuel marketer-focused videos breaking down the daunting HBIIP application process into manageable pieces to encourage retailers to apply. The videos were produced in coordination with USDA and can be found on the flexfuelforward.com website. Marketers can watch when they have time and can contact ACE with their questions. During the initial application period, ACE provided information to retailers nationwide, answering technical questions, helping some through the application and putting others in touch with ethanol supporters who provide funds for grant writers to help with more complicated applications.
Following USDA’s rollout of HBIIP, ACE is also helping retailers understand they may already have the equipment they need to add E15 by encouraging them to try the Flex Check E15 compatibility tool.
“Making sure station owners know what their equipment can do right now and helping more of them start to sell
higher blends as soon as they can is the lowest cost way for us to sell a lot more ethanol in a short period of time,” Lamberty said. “If we are going to move significant new volumes of ethanol in E15, it’s going to be because massive numbers of retail units are converted at little or no cost, on top of whatever stations are able to add new fueling infrastructure with HBIIP dollars.”